No matter what event you are training for, the season can be a long and repetitive ordeal. This is especially true for the marathon, where your training involves many hours per week for months on end, first in the base building period and then during the formal ramp-up, peak, and taper process. There are lots of opportunities for hurdles to arise, missteps to occur, setbacks to happen, and, hopefully most vivid in our memories, breakthrough performances to leap forth.
In fact, when you think about it, every season can become a story of its own, unique from the one anyone else can tell and from any other season you will experience. Thinking about the season this way makes the process that much richer, the journey more enjoyable, and the experiences much deeper and more meaningful.
In fact, learning to relish the process as much as you anticipate the result may be a key factor for success.
— Josh Cox (@JoshCox) September 24, 2012
There are a lot of benefits you can gain by thinking about your training sequence in this manner:
- It improves your motivation to get out every day (or, to be smart and not go out when you need a break). If you want the story to build and grow, you need to maintain the perseverance to put the work in on maintaining this progress.
- You come to view hurdles as opportunities (even if they come in the form of injuries). These hurdles add richness to the story, and provide a source of inspiration and confidence you can draw on when the need comes.
- You take more ownership of the process and results. By coming to recognize that you are the protagonist and control most of your destiny, the ability to find excuses evaporates.
- You keep a big picture perspective, knowing that each chapter has to build on what has come before, and that outcomes can become predictable. That 20-miler with 14 at marathon pace can’t happen without hitting the easy 18-miler first. Going too hard on an easy day spoils the tough tempo run next week.
- And, after all is said and done, you can look forward to writing the sequel. A good follow-up story builds on the lessons learned from the first release, but with a coherent theme. Each running season should follow the same progression, and avoid leaping to an unrelated idea.
This past season provides just such an example of how the story builds, and one chapter can’t happen without the ones that cam before it, each providing a lesson and a piece of the full tome.
- It began with recovery from Achilles tendinitis, learning that one can be too patient for injuries to recover (and a reinforcement of the value of Active Release Techniques therapy).
- There was the practice in discipline of ramping back up carefully, in an effort to get the base mileage to a desired weekly level ahead of formal training, while not being too aggressive in the slope.
- An early test race yielded a one-second PR, indicating that the starting fitness level was comparable to that of the prior season, so much of the difference could come from (a) training level and intensity, and (b) accumulated physiological and training/race experience.
- A first effort at the long marathon-pace run was successful during a trip to San Francisco, but was followed by learning experiences on hydration and not overdoing things.
- Finding a new chiropractor helped get the season back on track, a reminder that sometimes we do need the help of others.
- The perpetual schedule hurdles driving very early morning starts and reminders that sleep is a training tool too.
- The stomach bug right before a peak week of training, followed by a head cold, leading to a lot of training getting crammed into a short period of time.
- The half-marathon PR by 23 seconds the following weak, which, while generally positive, was a reminder to temper expectations for “B” races for which your training hasn’t been optimized.
- The constant minor nagging of the Achilles (making this feel like Season on the Brink, sans flying chairs), leading to the use of active isolated stretching as a new maintenance approach.
- One final tweak of the “other” Achilles in a non-running incident, followed by a rapid repair and recovery with the help of said chiropractor.
Of course, you can argue that the process means nothing without the results. But what better motivation is there to go out and achieve a great result than to know you have a story to finish. And no book is made with just a final chapter, just as no successful race is made without the right training.
So go finish your story this fall – manage your taper wisely, and put everything you have into your A race. Maybe you won’t write a book about it, but at least you’ll see the story in all it’s glory, and be that much smarter and better off for having lived it.